Football hooliganism and crowd disorder are not uncommon in the world of football. However, the unprecedented fan violence that unfolded during the match between NŠ Mura and NK Maribor on 18th February, 2024, which resulted in several players severely injured, necessitates the requirement to have a broader understanding of the reasons for fan violence in Slovenia in order to enforce suitable measures to safeguard players and spectators alike.

During the match, a pyrotechnic device was thrown by fans of NK Maribor towards the pitch which exploded near the bench where the NŠ Mura players were seated. 5 players and a fitness coach of NŠ Mura were injured in the incident, with two players having severe burns and facing temporary hearing loss. Owing to this, clashes erupted between the travelling fans of NK Maribor and the fans of NŠ Mura, which required the immediate intervention of the local police. The match was thereafter suspended to ensure safety of all players and spectators as well as to ensure medical staff could treat the injured players. There has been no update on whether the match will be replayed or cancelled all together.

In light of such incidents, the questions of who bears the responsibility, and the nature and quantum of sanction imposed is an important one in order to safeguard the sport from being marred due to the unruly conduct of a few.

Who may be held responsible?

While investigations are currently on-going, the following persons are most likely to bear responsibility for the incident:

  • The fans: The persons responsible for throwing the pyrotechnic device will be liable towards the players who were injured. They will also be liable to NŠ Mura as they purchased the ticket for the game subject to the terms and conditions of the stadium owners – NŠ Mura, which generally includes terms regarding conduct and destruction of property. Furthermore, they will also be responsible to the Football Association of Slovenia for their misconduct which resulted in an unsafe match environment.
  • NK Maribor: As the persons responsible for the incident were the fans of NK Maribor, NK Maribor will be held liable for the misconduct of its travelling fans to both the injured players and NŠ Mura. Moreover, NK Maribor will be answerable to the Football Association of Slovenia for their failure to regulate the conduct of their travelling fans.
  • NŠ Mura: As the incident occurred in the stadium of NŠ Mura, they will also be held answerable to the injured players and the Football Association of Slovenia for their negligence to conduct security checks prior to the game and have other security measures in place to prevent such incidents.
  • The Football Association of Slovenia: The Football Association of Slovenia may also bear the responsibility for the incidents as they owed an over-arching duty of care to all stakeholders in matches organised under their purview. Their negligence in foreseeing such incidents and putting in place suitable measures to prevent such incidents will make them liable to the injured players.

What are the possible sanctions?

Sanctions may vary from civil and criminal sanctions under the applicable laws of Slovenia to disciplinary sanctions under the applicable Disciplinary Rules of the Football Association of Slovenia [1].

Particularly, the following civil and criminal sanctions maybe imposed:

  • Against the fans:
    • The fans responsible for the incident may be required to compensate NŠ Mura for the breach of the terms and conditions of the match ticket purchased by them, which usually mandates for good conduct of the purchaser of the ticket. Furthermore, they may be required to compensate the club and the players for any loss suffered by them as well as the compensation for the costs of their medical treatment.
    • Additionally, they may be charged by the Republic of Slovenia with punishments for committing equivalent offences of assault, public disorder, damage to property and person, and the alike under the applicable laws of Slovenia.
  • Against NK Maribor:
    • As a restorative measure, NK Maribor may be required to compensate NŠ Mura and the injured players for the loss and harm suffered by them due to the misconduct of its fans. The quantum of compensation payable by NK Maribor may also monumentally increase in case any player has suffered a permanent injury (as there have been reports of players suffering temporary hearing loss) which prevents them from pursuing their professional career as a football player in the same level.
  • Against NŠ Mura:
    • Owing to their negligence, they may be required to compensate their players and coaching staff injured for their failure to ensure that appropriate measures were in place to prevent such incidents. This duty of care of NŠ Mura may also reduce the amount of compensation that may be payable by NK Maribor towards the injured players.
  • Against the Football Association of Slovenia:
    • The Football Association of Slovenia may also be required to compensate the injured players for the injuries suffered owing to the breach of the duty of care that they had towards anyone participating in a match organised under their purview.

What are the suitable measures to deal with fan violence?

As most cases of fan violence occur due to a spectator believing that their actions go unnoticed by being a part of a group, it is necessary to tackle the source of the problem head-front and sanction the perpetrator directly. This must not only be a criminal sanction but also a rehabilitative sanction which is aimed at educating the perpetrator that they are not anonymous amongst a group and their actions have consequences. Moreover, such education must also instil the idea that as fans of a football club, they do not need to ‘defend’ a territory to represent their loyalty towards a football club, as this notion is what stirs fans to behave violently. It is also paramount that a collaborative effort all the stakeholders is adopted in educating fans.

Additionally, the Football Association of Slovenia may also adopt measures similar to the ones adopted in the U.K. (where football hooliganism was a huge issue) and impose a ban on the sale of alcohol within the stadium, change match timings to earlier in the day and segregate areas in the stadium for rival supporters. They may also change the venue of matches to neutral stadiums in case it is between rival clubs that have clashed in the past.


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